He lives in a $700,000 Brickell condo for free.
He drives around town in new Jaguars.
He flashes thick rolls of cash, jets to Italy several times a year and is known to the maitre d's at some of Rome's finest restaurants.
Some of his friends appear in FBI reports. Some associates show up in Organized Crime Bureau files.
He is Dade Circuit Judge John Galardi Gale, civil chief of the nation's fourth-busiest circuit court system.
His public salary: $86,000 a year.
A lengthy Miami Herald investigation reveals that Gale -- a judge since 1972, head of the bustling civil division since 1977 -- has doled out lucrative court appointments to friends, issued favorable rulings to select attorneys and declined to remove himself when his impartiality could be questioned. He enjoys a life style well beyond his public salary.
Thousands of pages of public records -- including court files, depositions, appellate reviews, property records and election forms -- disclose:
* Gale is currently a defendant in federal court, where lawyers want him thrown out of his Villa Regina condo for "unlawful possession" and "unjust enrichment" at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.
* Gale has awarded two close friends court-approved fees totaling more than $150,000.
* Gale once refused to remove himself from a hearing in a divorce case despite acknowledging that he had dated the defendant.
* He was named in a Metro-Dade Organized Crime Bureau report in which an individual, who was later arrested for loan- sharking, described him as "our judge."
Gale said that his arrangement to buy the condominium was proper. The special arrangement that he has for his cars is also proper, he said.
"I do not have a life style which exceeds my income, " he said.
The judge said that in court appointments, it is his practice to name someone who is "trustworthy and competent."
He said he decides all court issues strictly "on the merits." Any free travel, he said, is reported to the Judicial Qualifications Commission.
In Florida, as elsewhere, the Code of Judicial Conduct governs judicial behavior. It sets forth ethical guidelines and asks that judges rigorously adhere to them.
Among the guidelines:
"A judge should not allow his personal relationships to influence his judicial conduct or judgment. . . . A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. He must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny."
Judge Gale, 63, declined to be interviewed for this story.
He did agree to respond to written questions.
Gale lives on the 11th floor of Villa Regina, the rainbow-hued Brickell Avenue condominium.
Gale's condo, according to promotional brochures, has three bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths, 3,060 square feet and an 855-square-foot balcony offering a panoramic sweep of Biscayne Bay. It features his-and-hers walk-in closets, color-coordinated bidets, Roman tubs with Jacuzzi, wall-to-wall bathroom mirrors and a wet bar.
The judge also put out a bid on a smaller, adjoining unit.
This, he said, was "on behalf of my mother, who wishes, at her age, to live near me."
The smaller, adjoining unit has two bedrooms, two baths, 1,795 square feet and a 215-square-foot balcony. It features marble vanity tops, a deluxe GE double-door refrigerator, a Westinghouse washer and dryer and a state-of-the-art computerized security system.
Before moving into the larger condo, Gale installed marble floors. The contractor said the labor and materials were worth about $45,000.